Do you find conferences to be exciting yet overwhelming? Have you ever left a conference feeling frustrated that you didn’t visit key vendors or missed out on innovative speakers? If you were amped up about your last seminar but walked away feeling empty-handed, you need to know our top four strategies to get the most out of a conference!
Who are we? Q4Launch is a trusted marketing partner to hundreds of businesses in the hospitality industry and we would love to share our top strategies with you!
4 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Conference
1. Set a Goal and Map Out Your Plan
Let’s assume the average hospitality conference lasts for three days. You have registration fees, airfare, transportation, accommodations, and meals. All that combined could run you around $1,500 per person. It’s a significant investment, so make it worthwhile! Here are a few tips for how to prepare for attending a conference.
Set Your Goal: If you don’t have a goal, you won’t achieve the goal! So, really dig into why you are attending the conference. Do you want to connect with potential suppliers and providers, seek advice from experts, or obtain strategies that will help grow your business?
Know What to Expect at the Conference: Now that you have your conference goals in mind, make time to map out a plan for the conference.
Don’t wait until you’re walking into the building to look at the agenda or vendor list. Print out the materials and circle and highlight items so you can map out each day with your end-goal in mind.
Recruit Others on Your Team:
Is the conference too big for one person to handle? Recruit another employee or two. You’ll divide and conquer, and your team will appreciate the investment you are making in them.
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2. Network Like a Champion: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
We know that networking is an essential aspect of attending conferences. It is also pretty organic, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s think about why most people attend conferences:
- To stay current with best practices.
- To stay current with technology, which is changing constantly.
- To continue to evolve in the industry. If you’re new to the hospitality industry, there is always more to learn. Even if you’ve been in business for 20+ years, your process and operations can still be improved.
Branch Out: One of the biggest things that can hold you back at a conference is if you don’t branch out. You can’t learn anything from others in your field if you only talk to the person you traveled with. Our best advice for how to network at a conference is to get out of your comfort zone and strike up conversations with other attendees. This alone can provide a huge return on your investment in the conference.
Make a List of Questions: Make connecting with others easy by creating a list of questions before you leave your inn, bed and breakfast, or vacation rental office. That way you’re prepared to have a meaningful conversation with others in your field. Chances are, conference attendees who have “been there and done that” can help!
Don’t worry about asking “silly” questions. It’s likely someone else has wondered about that, too. And, better yet, someone at the conference will have an answer to your burning questions.
BONUS! Here Are a Few Suggested Topics:
- Think about the areas of your business that just haven’t been going smoothly or as efficiently as you would have hoped. In some cases, you may be better off than most, and you can feel good about that. In other instances, you’ll get some great insights to investigate and implement.
- Ask your peers how they handle their operations if they invest in PPC, how they convert an OTA booker into a direct booker with a repeat visit?
- Some folks have a shortlist of activities that they do every week, find out what’s on their list!
- Ask your questions, listen to the answer, and write it down so you don’t forget. This is simple, but if you’re not really listening, you won’t glean essential tips that could help you and your business.
Our webinars are an excellent opportunity to ask questions and learn more about growing your hospitality business through marketing! Attend a “mini-conference” when you sign up for our next webinar.
3. Meet With Vendors, Meet With Vendors, Meet With Vendors
Not every session will be on-target for your goal. Don’t feel bad about skipping conference sessions that aren’t applicable. Use this to your advantage and request a product demo from a technology provider instead.
Make Time for Face Time: While everyone else is in a session, you’ll have the vendors to yourself.
Even if you are happy with your current provider, it’s good to know what functionality is available. You never know when you might want to switch.
On the Vacation Rental side of the industry, V12 PMS software is being sunsetted. On the Bed and Breakfast side, SuperInns is closing operations on Oct. 31, which pushed a lot of people to find a new booking engine. And over the past few years, folks in Bed and Breakfast and Hotel have been disappointed with the new BookingSuite website templates. The point is that sometimes providers are the ones that force you to make a change.
Carve out some time to understand who the players are and the functionality they provide. That way, it will be less overwhelming if you find yourself having to look for a new provider.
4. If You’re Shopping, Make Sure You Understand the Differences Between Providers
There are times when you reach a point where you need to invest more in your business. Maybe you hit a milestone of 50 vacation rental properties. Maybe revenue is down versus the prior year and you need to do something different.
Maybe you learned something at a session that suggests your current approach is stale and outdated.
Apples to Apples? Or Apples to Oranges? Whatever the reason, a conference is a great place to research vendors and service providers. But it can get tricky. Often times, it feels like the offerings are very similar. Use the time at a conference to scratch beneath the surface.
Ask questions about onboarding.
- What kind of support is provided?
- Are there hidden costs?
- What integrations are available?
- Who owns the data?
“Who owns the data” is an important question for you to ask. If you part ways with a provider, do you lose that historical data? The answer may be yes, and in some instances, you might be OK with that. Better to know up-front.
Price isn’t the most important factor.
- Is the vendor investing in their own product?
- Is there a roadmap for future functionality?
- What’s on the roadmap?
There is more time to have these conversations when you’re at a conference – for both you and the provider. Take advantage of it!
Now you’re armed with some smart strategies to use at the next conference you attend! Go out there, make those connections and find the right partner for your Vacation Rental, B&B, or Hotel.
Still not sure where to start? Let Q4Launch help!. Our team in-house team of Content Creators and Customer Success Managers can set forth a marketing strategy that will take your business to the next level. Contact us today for your free consultation!